New fund to back start-ups

New fund to back start-ups

Venture-accelerator hybrid Big Idea Ventures and India financial-services group Ashika Group are to set up a fund to back start-ups in the country offering alternatives to conventional protein products.

The Indian arm of The Good Food Institute, the US non-profit that advocates for plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs, is to support the investors, which are also establishing an accelerator to support the fledgling firms.

Big Idea Ventures and Ashika have started to raise US$25m for the fund in India. They expect to begin accepting applications for the accelerator, to be based in Mumbai, in 2021.

Alternatives to protein are in their infancy in India, a country where around 70% of the population class themselves as non-vegetarian, although, while being non-vegetarian in the country can mean a consumer eats eggs, they may not eat meat.

Meat-free products have been on sale in India, largely chunks or nuggets made from soy, but the market for plant-based meat alternatives – at least as those in the West would recognise it – is nascent, with less than a handful of brands carving out a foothold so far.

Andrew Ive, founder and managing general partner of Big Idea Ventures, said, described India as "one of the most promising markets for an ecosystem of world-class start-ups to emerge".

He added: "Big Idea Ventures has always backed audacious entrepreneurs tackling big problems at every step of their journey. We believe we can help dozens more entrepreneurs in India to launch their alternative protein dream and build a thriving plant based global industry."

Big Idea Ventures, set up in 2018, is one of an increasing number of venture capital funds investing in the growing market of alternative protein. The investor  launched its first fund – dubbed the New Protein Fund – in 2019, closing with $50m to invest and with backers that include Singapore's state venture-capital fund Temasek, multinational plant equipment manufacturer Bühler and US meat giant Tyson Foods. The venture firm holds twice-yearly accelerators in New York and Singapore.

Ashika CEO Chirag Jain added: "Ashika Group has worked with organizations across the spectrum of the food and beverage industry and the technology sector for many years, and has stayed abreast of emerging innovations within this landscape. Alternative protein is a major opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs and corporate players to get involved in the future of food."

just-food deep dive: "It's going to be a marathon and it's going to be worth it" – weighing up the prospects for plant-based meat in India

just-food digital magazine exclusive, August 2020: "We're looking for big ideas that will have global popularity" – interview with Big Idea Ventures' Andrew Ive